Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The best policy

One of my closest friends claims to be childfree. Her boyfriend of three years fathered a child as a teenager and had a terrible experience – as I understand it, the parents of the girl refused to let him be a part of the child’s life, and now he’s got a 10-year-old who doesn’t know him. The family ignores his existence, though he notifies them every time he moves in case they or the child wants to find him. It’s a crappy situation, though. He’s also a bit of a playboy, a character trait that I don’t appreciate in him because it’s not at all what my friend needs, even though I consider him a dear friend as well. He could be a great boyfriend… to someone else. Someone who doesn’t want kids and is open to an open or poly relationship.

So anyway, she claims to be childfree. Career-centered in a high-powered job, making money that my husband and I will likely never see, she claims she doesn’t care about kids and would rather a life without them. But I could tell her heart wasn’t in her words. I recently brought it up to a mutual friend who confirmed my suspicions.

She desperately wants a baby. She desperately wants to get married. But she’s invested so much time, money, and emotion in this relationship that she doesn’t know what to do. She’s 33 and at a crossroads where she needs to decide what she wants from life, because her career as it is today and raising a child as she wants to are mutually exclusive.

I wonder at times why she isn’t honest with me. Because I can’t relate? I suppose. Because my husband and her boyfriend have talked about getting vasectomies at the same time and having a big party? Maybe. But mostly I think it’s because she’s trying to convince herself.

It’s not that she doesn’t find a childfree life unappealing. She has the money to travel, the career that takes her to the most amazing places. She loves the city life and knows that the white picket fence that she dreams about doesn’t really suit her personality, and yet she wants it so badly sometimes.

But she’s stuck with this guy, this guy with a great heart who’s just so not right for her and who, at times, I think feels as trapped as she does in the relationship.

I want to talk to her about it, but I don’t know what to say. I want to tell her I can tell she’s not childfree in her heart, that maybe she needs to take some time to decide if it’s just biology having its way with her or if she really does want to slow her life down and raise a child. She deserves someone who’s better for her than who she’s got now, someone who will give her more than “If you want me to marry you I’ll marry you.” He loves her dearly and I don’t doubt that, but they won’t be happy. If he gets this vasectomy I know she’ll resent him for it. I want her to know that it’s okay to want a baby, and to want more.

Ultimately, she's in control of her own fate and needs to be honest with her boyfriend. Sometimes I wonder if she just needs somebody to confirm that it's okay to be conflicted about his vasectomy, and that if she really wants to have biological children with him, then she needs to speak up now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Risks and Reward

I am really proud of my best friend. She spent years being paranoid about what others thought of her, of whether her actions befit a “good mom”, and no amount of “hip mama” talk could break her out of it. A good mom doesn’t go to clubs and dance and stay out ‘til 2am even though the kids are safe and sound at grandma’s house. A good mom doesn’t have a funky haircut or *gasp* hot pink streaks in her hair – what would the other moms at the day care think? These thoughts plagued her, a former goth, and I watched parts of her change dramatically.

Oh, sure, part of it is growing up. At 30 I’m more selective of what I wear on a day-to-day basis than I was at 22, I go with clip-in streaks and tie-on hair falls that can be removed for day at the office, but I’m far from grown up. It wasn’t so much that she changed, though. It was that she wanted to do funky things with her hair, to go out with us to the club, to wear the t-shirts with the double entendres. But her refrain remained “I’m a mom now”.

Her sons are now 5 and 2, she’s now 32, and she just took an amazing risk to do something she’s talked about for years: she just joined a roller derby league. This has been a dream of hers as long as I’ve known her, long before the resurgence of the sport. She thought about derby names – the dirtier, the meaner the better – and she went about designing her derby image. She’s buying the good skates and the good pads and going out there to kick some ass. And while the fear of injury is there—a teammate of a good friend of mine became paralyzed after an accident in Chicago, and other girls have suffered horrific breaks—she’s actually recognizing that while she’s far more likely to seriously injure herself doing derby than in her day-to-day life as a stay-at-home mom, serious injuries in the sport are actually not that common. It’s a risk that’s worth taking.

Additionally, she’s going to be doing a Polar Bear Plunge for the Special Olympics, another thing she always wanted to do (jump into a freezing river for charity) that is unbecoming a proper mom. The best part of all this is that she is so much happier than she's been in years now that she's letting go of her fantasy of what a 'proper mom' is and becoming more confident that the best thing she can do for her kids is just be herself.

To celebrate her newly unburied risk-taking spirit I’m donating 100% of profits from my CafePress Childfree Me Store for the month of December (by far my busiest month of the year) to her to pledge for her Polar Bear Plunge. If you ever thought about getting a Childfree t-shirt or coffeemug for you or a friend, the profit’s going to a great cause. (The store link is now fixed)